With the pandemic continuing to severely impact countries around the globe, the road transport industry remains committed to maintaining its services to communities and economies.
We spoke to Hugo Bauza, president of IRU member the Argentinian Federation of Cargo Transport Businesses (FADEEAC), to shed light on the pandemic’s impact on road transport and the immediate actions the government should take to support companies, services and the economy.
How has the pandemic affected the road transport sector in Argentina?
The road transport of goods was declared essential by the government during the pandemic meaning that, in principle, trucks were allowed to travel freely throughout the country. However, in practice, the situation was very different, with provincial measures posing a serious obstacle to goods transport.
The wide variation of provincial measures also had a devastating impact on driver conditions. In some cases, drivers were forced to stay in their cabs, with officers sealing doors and windows so drivers could not leave their trucks while in the province. In others, they were forced to remain in quarantine for 15 days at provincial borders where conditions were not adequate, despite having a negative COVID-19 test.
Have the restrictions on road transport affected the delivery of goods?
Yes, restrictions have obstructed the delivery of goods throughout Argentina. One province entirely prohibited drivers from other provinces from entering. Drivers had to hand their trucks or trailers over to a local driver and wait for their return at the border. While doing so, drivers were sent to sleep in a shipping container with no space to respect social distancing. These restrictions have led to shortages of food and medical supplies.
What has FADEEAC done to help?
FADEEAC reacted quickly to the pandemic, establishing a crisis committee and various information channels to respond immediately to issues and queries. The committee helped drivers and transport operators to comply with regulations and deal with the provincial authorities that were restricting their work.
We have also make great efforts to improve working conditions for drivers. At the beginning of the pandemic, most service stations were closed and those that were open denied access to trucks. Following advocacy efforts by FADEEAC, around 12,000 service stations were opened to supply fuel and food to truck drivers.
What do you need from your government?
From an operational standpoint, we urgently need the government to implement a national protocol for all the provinces to allow the flow of goods throughout Argentina. This is the only way we can ensure continuity of service and prevent shortages.
The government has provided financial support partially covering the some salaries. However, more direct financial support is needed, as well as easier access to loans and capital. We have not seen any measures delaying or reducing tax or loan payments, which are vital to help companies, many of them small and medium enterprises, get through these tough economic times.